Distinguished Service Award to Sheila Alexander-Reid
Presented by GLAA Vice President for Political Affairs Richard J. RosendallGLAA 36th Anniversary Reception
Washington Plaza Hotel
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Our first honoree this evening, Sheila Alexander-Reid, is a longtime community activist and entrepreneur. She seems to be doing everything. Last month she was elected by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club as its female representative to the Democratic State Committee. This coming Sunday she’ll host a garden party for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to help kick off its 2nd Annual DC Leadership Awards.
In 1993, Sheila founded Women in the Life, Inc., a multi-faceted brand including a magazine, event management company, website and non-profit association. The Women in the Life Association is dedicated to improving and enhancing the lives of lesbians of color through advocacy, programs and resource development.
Sheila contacted us early last year to announce the launch of what would become the Association’s signature program, the Wanda’s Will Project. It was designed to honor the memory of our late colleague and friend Wanda Alston by sponsoring free legal workshops promoting will execution and estate planning with the special needs of the LGBT community and families in mind. The workshop was quickly booked to capacity. As Sheila said, “Apparently, the need for this is greater than we ever imagined.”
We wanted to help, so we prepared a one-pager summarizing the rights and responsibilities of D.C. domestic partners, which were about to expand significantly with Phil Mendelson’s Domestic Partnership Equality Act. Sheila was pleased to get the one-pager as a resource for the workshop attendees. For the most recent workshop, the DP law had expanded too much to fit all the information on one page, so Bob Summersgill created a two-pager, which you can find at glaa dot org.
Of course, domestic partnerships are only one piece of the puzzle. But even when we achieve full equality, we will remain vulnerable if we fail to take advantage of the protections available to us. I myself have pledged to prepare my own will this year. I did designate my partner on my life insurance policy last year, so I’ve made a start. Judging by anecdotal evidence, the need out there is as great as the procrastination.
Making wills is not something many of us like to think about. But as Wanda’s sudden death two years ago made terribly clear, none of us knows when our time will come. And no one can determine our wishes better than we can do ourselves. Sheila and the Women in the Life Association have brought much-needed attention and expertise to bear on this subject. We hope our award this evening will help bring additional attention to their excellent work. It is my honor and pleasure to present GLAA’s Distinguished Service Award to Sheila Alexander-Reid.